By Stephen L. Betts
Filed under: Americana, Exclusive, InterviewsBruce Robison and Kelly Willis have been independent solo artists, each making their own way in the musical world since the 1990s. Bruce's first solo self-titled effort arrived in 1996, and Kelly released her debut,
Well Traveled Love, in 1990. The couple married in 1996 and welcomed the first of four children in 2001. Meanwhile, both continued to pursue separate musical paths, while making appearances on each other's records from time to time. One such collaboration, "Angry All the Time," from Bruce's album
Wrapped, became a hit duet for another married couple, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill. Bruce's songwriting has also led to other sizable country hits for George Strait ("Wrapped) and the Dixie Chicks ("Travelin' Soldier"), among others. (Bruce's brother Charlie, also an acclaimed singer-songwriter, is the ex-husband of the Chicks' Emily Robison.) While Kelly took somewhat of a hiatus once she gave birth to twin sons in 2003, and a daughter in 2006, both she and her husband continued to record and perform, yet they had never done an album's worth of duets together, until now. The recently-released
Cheater's Game is a traditional country bonanza, comprised of both original tunes and smartly-chosen covers. The Boot sat down with Bruce and Kelly to talk about how they chose material for the record, what they've had to overcome to work together on stage and how Kelly's Twitter habit uncovered one of her husband's earliest compositions: a fan letter he penned to a 1970s TV icon.How did the two of you decide now was the best time to do a duets record?
Bruce: We were kicking around the idea, then we decided we were going to go back out and do some shows. We just took a couple of guys with us, a standup bass player and a steel player. We were knocked out by playing in an intimate situation. We have this nice group of fans at different places across the country. We end up having a rapport with the crowd and the songs are really getting across there. The drums and bass are not drowning us out. For me, it's where we came up with the sound of this recording. We focused on our voices and presenting the songs. That's how we went about looking for the songs. It was like getting a fresh, new lease on life.